Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Of Forearms, Wrists, and a Mighty Grip - Mac Batchelor (1961)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
 George Redpath, Bert Goodrich
There's  cool, and then there's WAY cool.

 Mac Batchelor, Sig Klein
 On the Left: Wrist Wrestling Champ Lloyd Lampton

 Left: The arm of  Arthur Dandurand, Canadian strongman and one of the best wrist wrestlers in the world during his era. He had unbelievable gripping strength and power coming from that massive forearm (see also below). 

Right: The forearm of Clevio Massimo. Famous as a hand-balancer, the act of Massimo and Foley was one of the greatest back in the 1920s. He switched to wrestling and grappled such greats as Hackenschmidt, Gotch, and Zbyszko. 
Forearms come in assorted shapes and sizes. The best looking forearms (and  generally the strongest) are those that have a meaty mass of muscle up near the elbow and then taper down to a sinewy wrist. I've seen a lot of big forearms in my day and they've always been accompanied by a terrific grip.
I've always been interested in forearms because grip strength, and grip strength being my personal forte, comes from powerful forearms. A thick, sinewy wrist is important but I've found that the size of a man's wrist doesn't indicate his grip strength. It's the mass of meat on the forearm that operates those sinews that determine whether the grip is strong or weak.
There was a little fellow over in England named Tom Inch who weighed but 128; he had tiny hands and thin, ladylike wrists but he could dead-lift with one hand 452 pounds and brother, that takes a real man-sized grip! Those dainty wrists were backed up by a 14-3/4 inch forearm and that's where he got his gripping power.

Take old timer Charles Vansittart [Vansart]; there was a man who had the type of lower arm I admire. From his elbow and the major muscle mass, his forearm tapered down to a long wrist. Vansittart's wrist and forearm were extreme in this respect. This fabulous British professional strongman stood 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds, and presented a tall, cadaverous appearance which he emphasized by wearing a long, tight-fitting coat. He powdered his face and walked hunched over. The Saints protect any man who was taken in by his tubercular appearance and felt capable of defeating him on feats of strength. 

Tough and sinewy Vansittart could roll a Claret bottle along his arm and on reaching the crook of his elbow, flex his arm and crush the bottle! He had an 18-1/4 inch arm, 14 inch forearm, and a 7-5/8 inch wrist.

With apparently no great effort he could break an English penny in fingers. Besides being a master at bending and twisting iron bars he could hold 12 billiard cues simultaneously by the small ends in the fingers of one hand in a horizontal position from the shoulder. He could grasp 4 clay pipes in each hand and crush them to powder in his vise-like grip. (The shape and size of the bowls made this feat very difficult). 
Vansittart could pick up a 56 pound block weight between his thumb and second finger. His greatest feat of finger strength, and one never duplicated, was tearing a brand new tennis ball to pieces with his bare hands. Yes sir! Vansittart had a mighty grip because he had a mighty forearm.

 Dandurand, 1927 
Arthur Dandurand, fondly remembered as the "Dean of Canadian Strongmen," stood only 5'7" tall and weighed 190 pounds, but what a wrist and forearm he had! His great forearm of 14-1/2 inches tapered down to a 7-1/2 inch wrist; a wrist that would be massive on a normal mortal. Dandurand was the terror of Canada at wrist wrestling and defeated all the champions of this sport regardless of size.
Once, Dandurand lifted and pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with 4,050 pounds for 25 steps! What a grip he must have had to hold the barrow handles with all that weight. He could lift railroad rails; pick up a beer barrel by the chines and shoulder it; but his best remembered feat of strength and not duplicated to this day, was to pick up and shoulder a Model-T Ford motor block - a weight in excess of 440 pounds. 
The Bugbear of Training: How to Avoid
by Arthur Saxon:
Book by Arthur Saxon:  
 Arthur Saxon had such big wrists that his massive forearms went unnoticed. They were 14-3/4 inches but his wrists taped 8-7/8 inches; perhaps the largest wrists on record for a 200 pound man. Saxon's grip was incredible; he could pick up full barrels of beer by the chines. He snatched a wooden plank 18 feet long . . . and that takes a grip! He was a whiz at juggling heavy kettle-bells and that is probably how he developed his forearm and grip strength.

There was another old time Continental athlete of enormous forearm and grip strength; John Grun Marx. John was 6' tall, weighed around 250 pounds and had 15" forearms and 9" wrists. He had worked in a rock quarry in his youth and loading large round boulders into carts all day gave him exceptionally strong hands. Breaking coins and twisting horseshoes were but child's play to big Marx. 

Clevio Massimo enjoying his later years.
Don't know 'bout you,  but he looks REAL happy to me.
One of the best built forearms it has ever been my pleasure to see belonged to Clevio Massimo. What an arm he had! Years of weightlifting and hand-balancing gave him forearms of extraordinary proportions. Clevio was but 5'6" tall and weighed 190 pounds in his prime. He had 8-1/2" wrists. That's a massive wrist but Clevio had 15-1/4" forearms! We used to kid Massimo about the fact that his forearms were almost as big as his biceps. His biceps actually taped a beautiful 17" but you would never guess it, so big were his forearms. 

Old timer George Jowett, above, had a formidable forearm. George wasn't a tall man but that chunk of meat below his elbow measured 16" around and it tapered into a thick, sinewy 8-3/4" wrist. He was one of the few men who could pick up an anvil by the horn with one hand and swing it around. What power he had in those forearms! Old George was my mentor in the science of wrist wrestling and in his prime he had no peer.  

Now, let's look at a few related variations in training . . . 
The Forearms, like the calves, are known to bodybuilders as "stubborn" muscles. Building good forearms, like building good calves, takes a lot of work but you can build them up and make them look really impressive. If you develop your grip you develop your forearm. Here is a system of supersets that will give you a super grip and at the same time give you a super forearm. It will add muscle high up on your forearm - the place where it will look best.  

Superset No. 1: Reverse Wrist Curl and Gripper.  
Sit on a low stool or bench and with a regular hand grip (knuckles facing out) pick up a barbell loaded to about 40 pounds for your first try. Rest forearms on thighs so that bar extends about six inches beyond knees. Lower and raise your hands to the fullest extent. When you discover how tough this exercise is a.nd how little weight you can handle you will then realize its importance. Do one set of 9 reps. Set the barbell down and immediately pick up the grippers. Squeeze and squeeze, and squeeze until you can't. 
 Superset No. 2: Wrist Curl and Fingertip Chin.
Take the same position as in Set No. 1 except use palms up grip. Raise and lower the hands to the fullest possible extent and allow bar to roll down to the last joint of the fingers before beginning upward movement. It's a real tough one but you can handle more weight this way than in Set No. 1. Do one set of 9 reps then go immediately to the Chinning Bar. Hang by the fingertips, or as far out on the fingers as possible, and commence chinning. As you chin, CLENCH your fists so that at the completion of each chin you have a full grip on the bar. Chin until you can't. 

 Superset No. 3: Wrist Roller and Thick Bar Deadlift.
Stand erect holding wrist roller slightly above shoulder level, arms extended but with elbows very slightly bent. Start with 10 pounds on one end of cord. (Weight should rest on floor when arms are extended at shoulder level). Roll the cord up until weight touches the roller then unroll slowly and steadily resisting the weight all the way to the floor. Do 4 up and 4 down. Without resting, practice heavy deadlifts with the thickest handle barbell you have. If you have a bar 2" thick it would be just about right for this deadlift. You can place a sleeve of 2" outside diameter around your regular barbell and it will serve just as well. Deadlift until you can no longer hold the weight in your hands.

Superset No. 4: Deadlift Off Boxes and One-Hand Thick Bar Deadlift. 
Load a barbell with close to your best deadlift poundage and place on two boxes. (Boxes should be high enough so that bar is from 18 to 20 inches off floor). Do one set of 9 reps. You should be able to do 9 with very close to your limit as you are not using a full range of motion here. Remember, this exercise is being used here to strengthen the grip and not the back. On completing one set of partial deadlifts go at once to the One Hand Deadlift from the floor using the thick handled barbell. Deadlift as many times as possible with your weaker hand then switch to other hand and repeat. 
That oughta do it. 
Enjoy Your Lifting!   


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